Review: Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke ColeShadow Ops: Breach Zone on 2014-01-28
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began “coming up Latent,” developing terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Those who Manifest must choose: become a sheepdog who protects the flock or a wolf who devours it... In the wake of a bloody battle at Forward Operating Base Frontier and a scandalous presidential impeachment, Lieutenant Colonel Jan Thorsson, call sign “Harlequin,” becomes a national hero and a pariah to the military that is the only family he’s ever known. In the fight for Latent equality, Oscar Britton is positioned to lead a rebellion in exile, but a powerful rival beats him to the punch: Scylla, a walking weapon who will stop at nothing to end the human-sanctioned apartheid against her kind. When Scylla’s inhuman forces invade New York City, the Supernatural Operations Corps are the only soldiers equipped to prevent a massacre. In order to redeem himself with the military, Harlequin will be forced to face off with this havoc-wreaking woman from his past, warped by her power into something evil...

The entire Shadow Ops series is like looking through a spider’s eye. (I suppose this makes the author the dark carnivore at the center of the web… Sorry for that metaphor, Myke.) Every glimpse we get into this world shows us a slightly different facet. With every piece, we get another view of the same story, views that make us re-evaluate what we thought we were sure of before.

In Control Point, we had Oscar Britton’s story. A soldier who screwed up in his efforts to do right and was punished severely for it. In that book, Harlequin is the bad guy, along with the rest of the government.

In Fortress Frontier, we meet Bookbinder and see the whole situation from another perspective. The government is maybe a little corrupt, but it’s still made of people. More people screwing up what they were trying to do right. The goblins and Scylla are the bad guys here.

Then we get to Breach Zone, and we get to see that the Big Bad of the series (And can I just say what a thrill it is that the Big Bad is a *woman*?) is also just a person who messed up while trying to do the right thing. It’s noted in the text that even the goblins fighting are doing so because they want to make sure that they get LEFT ALONE in their own world.

The author said at one point that this book is, at its heart, a romance story. And to that, I say, “Ehhhh. Sorta.” Some people do, after all, consider Romeo and Juliet a romantic tale. I think those people are kind of nutballs, myself, but I do have to admit that there’s an element of romance there. I think both stories are, however, more about the consequences of backing people into a corner.

R & J would have loved each other for all of about two weeks and then gotten over it if they’d been allowed to get it out of their system. Harlequin wouldn’t have been forced to choose between his duty and his government. Scylla wouldn’t have needed to run or hide or murder an ass-load of people. They were all trying to make their best choices with the tools that they had — and they were all, without exception, both completely right and UTTERLY WRONG.

I think the moral of the story is that there are never any good choices. There are only the best choices we can make at the time. We never know all the consequences for our actions. That doesn’t mean we should never make any, just that we should weigh them carefully and be prepared to deal with any fallout.

I believe most of us think of our nation’s soldiers as Brave and Good. We also tend to think of our government (no matter which side you’re on) as Corrupt and Sometimes-Evil. So how is it possible for our soldiers to always be Brave and Good when being directed by a power that is Corrupt and Sometimes-Evil? The polarity of that, the struggle of it, is something I saw repeated again and again throughout this series. I don’t think Cole intended to give us an answer (and I don’t believe that he does) but I think that this series forces us to see that there are at least two sides (and probably more) to any story.

It makes me see that those Brave and Good soldiers and our Corrupt and Sometimes-Evil government can do both Good Things and Bad Things — sometimes both at the same time. Multi-faceted. Spider’s eyes. Seeing through them is both wonderful and disconcerting.

Thinking about this story through the context of the author’s biography is fascinating. Myke Cole has experience with the armed forces, is an officer of the Coast Guard, and is someone who does work with the NYPD… To take this story and filter it through that lens is part of what, for me, made this story fun. So yes, I think this book is definitely a love story. But I don’t think Harlequin and Scylla are it. I think this is a story of the love between a man, a soldier, and his country, his home city. And for that I think it’s just beautiful.

You guys, these books are so well written. Everything I know about the military I picked up watching NCIS, but even I didn’t get stuck on the soldier-speak (and O, the acronyms!) (There’s a glossary in the back if you get stuck.) Every time you think you have the line in the sand drawn and you know where the story is going, Cole turns it on its head. I was a little miffed at first when the story didn’t keep following Oscar after Control Point, but I have to admit that the author’s method was completely sound. The fact that Cole can write this well AND shoot a rifle just doesn’t seem fair.